Thursday, February 5, 2009

Test Kitchen Wednesday

Every Wednesday is pretty much a test kitchen day for me. I normally start promptly at 6pm and wrap-up my test session at around 10-12am depending on how OCD I get with re-doing the set dishes until I'm happy with the final product. By Saturday night, I normally have the concept in place for what I plan to do on Wednesday. Last night, the menu consisted of a vadouvan buffalo burger, a crispy greens mozzarella salad and buttermilk biscuits (my 3-4 try overall at perfecting the biscuit).
The burger was great and met expectations based on my initial concept. The seasoning and marinade for the burger included vadouvan (my own), egg, tapioca starch, shoyu, salt, shallot, smoked mirasol chile and pepper. It maybe could have used the slightest touch of acid/citrus, but I'm not too big of a fan of screwing around with a great thing - maybe a shave of meyer lemon zest, but its not important. No salt adjustment was needed to finish. The accompanying acts were ketchup, kewpie mayo, seared mozz, mizuna and a buttery grilled sesame bun. Oh baby!

The "crispy" greens salad was pretty much a spin-off concept from a set of garnishes I was doing. The greens (rapini flowers, ancho cress, carrot greens, fennel greens) are coated lightly in oil and salt and then slow roasted to crisp. I would have preferred to use buffalo mozz bocconcini, but I cut up some soft mozz balls in small wedges instead. Garnish with olive oil, fleur de sel and finish with blood orange gastrique. Texturally intriguing, but really lacked depth of flavor. I guess it was simply a case of putting together too many subtle elements. The texture of the greens really over-matched the gumminess of the mozz. Everything would probably stand better as supporting elements - I was probably conceptually forcing circles into square pegs. At least it looks pretty, right?

There's really nothing stopping me at this point from serving biscuits of some form as my "bread" starter for my future menu. I understand that people fear the fat in biscuits, but they'll just have to skip the bread course at my future place. I don't have the patience and appreciation for basic sourdough and plus, biscuits taste better with fruit compote. As you can see, my biscuits came out beautifully and were very fluffy. Biscuits are amazingly easy to make, but are frustratingly complex to perfect. The ingredients are simple - 3 items: butter, self rising flour (you can use baking soda, baking powder and AP substitute instead) and buttermilk. Amazingly, within those basic rules and ratios, you have a world of variation and rules. Basic things to consider in terms of technique:

-butter must be cold and must not be over-obliterated by a processor when mixed with flour
-what type of buttermilk you use may affect the ratio of your dough, so whichever recipe you decide to use, you need the proper experience to make a judgment call on how dense the dough is before folding. Get a feel your dough, know your dough, love your dough...
-do not knead it to death, it is not bread, no one is looking for gluten structure here
-figure out how to layer butter properly to incorporate into pre-folded dough
-roll dough into AP and not self rising blend because it has an aftertaste
-2 mins before you finish, brush bottom of biscuits with butter (often overlooked)

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